The Marsoulas conch is the oldest wind instrument of its kind. This large ornate seashell was discovered in the Marsoulas cave, between Haute-Garonne and Ariège, in 1897.
According to the carbon 14 dating of the cave, carried out on a piece of coal and a bear bone fragment of the same archaeological level as the shell, it gave a date of around 18,000 years. And now we can hear what it sounded like .
The shell has been decorated with a red pigment (hematite), characteristic of the Marsoulas Cave , which indicates its status as a symbolic object. The tip of the shell is inadvertently broken, forming an opening 3.5 cm in diameter. Since the opening was irregular and covered by an organic coating, the researchers assume that it also had a nozzle.
To find out what this instrument might sound like, researchers from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Toulouse Museum, the Toulouse-Jean Jaurès University and the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques-Chirac hired a trumpeter who managed to sound with she three sounds close to the notes C, C sharp and D. You can listen to it below :
To date, flutes have only been discovered in earlier European Upper Palaeolithic contexts and conch shells found outside of Europe are much more recent.
Here you have the 3D model of the shell to explore it at your leisure: